LAist saved by KPCC and our 'national disgrace' on the streets

delario-lao.jpgAn exhibit of work by the late Los Angeles ceramic artist Dora De Larios opened Sunday at Beta Main in Downtown. Judy Graeme visited with the artist for Native Intelligence in 2009.

Our occasional roundup of news, notes and chatter. Between posts you can keep up with LA Observed on Twitter — now with more than 25,000 followers.

Top of the news

• Weinstein Co. is set to file for bankruptcy after sale talks collapse - LA Times
• Black Panther’ crosses $700 million globally, annihilating newcomers - New York Times
• As crime and drugs recede, MacArthur Park is going upscale, and many residents feel left behind - LA Times
• Sharp words over wall halt plans for Mexican president to visit White House - New York Times
• Santa Barbara County native Katy Perry holds surprise concert for survivors of deadly Montecito mudslide - KTLA

LAist reborn via KPCC

Big surprising news in local media: KPCC, the public radio station in Pasadena, is acquiring the shuttered LAist website and archives as part of a national arrangement funded by two so-far anonymous donors. The deal revives three of the Gothamist websites shut down last year after a union vote by some employees. WNYC in New York will publish the original Gothamist blog, WAMU in Washington will bring back DCist, and KPCC will take over LAist. Details and timing to come, but KPCC's CEO Bill Davis said that LAist staffers would work out of the station's Pasadena offices and keep the branded website, while content would likely be shared between LAist and the KPCC website.

KPCC's own story by Josie Huang says the arrangement was brought to KPCC by WNYC. I'm quoted in the story along with former LA Weekly reporter Dennis Romero and news industry analyst Ken Doctor. Excerpt:

Davis said he would not say exactly how much the station paid as part of an agreement with the donors and other stations, but it can be deduced it was about $50,000.

In a morning interview with the KPCC show Take Two, Davis said acquisition costs were "84/1 millionths of what Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times for.” Asked later about his comment, Davis said he was working off the $500 million Soon-Shiong paid for the newspaper, plus the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities.

“What this does is strengthen our digital platform for a very, very affordable price,” Davis said.


The station hopes to expand its audience digitally by acquiring LAist, which drew 776,000 visitors in October 2017, compared to 689,000 for KPCC's site.

In a separate post, KPCC chief content officer Kristen Muller addressed why KPCC is bringing LAist back — see an open letter to Southern California: "We have a lot of great ideas about what this partnership will look like, but we need your input. What did you love (or hate) about the LAist?"

'A national disgrace'

lat-home-homeless.jpgFront and center on the web site, and in a full page takeover of the printed Sunday editorial page, the Los Angeles Times editorial board declared the Los Angeles homeless crisis a national disgrace and put the problem at the feet of Mayor Eric Garcetti. "Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles has risen every year since Garcetti took office in 2013. Over the course of his tenure, it is up 49%." Garcetti is key, but it's also the rest of us.

The opening paragraphs of the editorial paint the picture about as clearly as it can be done.

There are few sights in the world like nighttime in skid row, the teeming Dickensian dystopia in downtown Los Angeles where homeless and destitute people have been concentrated for more than a century.

Here, men and women sleep in rows, lined up one after another for block after block in makeshift tents or on cardboard mats on the sidewalks — the mad, the afflicted and the disabled alongside those who are merely down on their luck. Criminals prey on them, drugs such as heroin and crystal meth are easily available, sexual assault and physical violence are common and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis and AIDS are constant threats.

Skid row is — and long has been — a national disgrace, a grim reminder of man’s ability to turn his back on his fellow man. But these days it is only the ugly epicenter of a staggering homelessness problem that radiates outward for more than 100 miles throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. There are now more than 57,000 people who lack a “fixed, regular or adequate place to sleep” on any given night in the county, and fewer than 1 in 10 of them are in skid row.

Homelessness burst its traditional borders several years ago, spreading first to gloomy underpasses and dim side streets, and then to public parks and library reading rooms and subway platforms. No matter where you live in L.A. County, from Long Beach to Beverly Hills to Lancaster, you cannot credibly claim today to be unaware of the squalid tent cities, the sprawling encampments, or the despair and misery on display there.

The editorial congratulates Angelenos for passing the two tax measures last year to address the homeless crisis. "But here’s the bad news: Passing Measures H and HHH was the easy part." I can't remember the last time I recommended reading a newspaper editorial, but I do this one.

Also: City Hall sanitation officials said they will need to nearly double their staffing to handle the workload of dealing with homeless encampments in the upcoming year. Daily News

And: NBC 4 investigative reporter Lolita Lopez has a new piece on Skid Row gangs with LAPD officer Deon Joseph, who repeats his conclusion that "this is the worst I've ever seen it." He says: "There are hundreds and hundreds of gang members and their associates hiding among the homeless." NBC 4

The commanding officer of the LAPD Central Division last week:

Speaking of Mayor Garcetti

The mayor of Los Angeles spent part of last week making appearances in South Carolina — an (ahem) early primary state in the 2020 presidential race. He chaired a meeting of the non-profit Accelerator for America Advisory Council, but the Times sent a reporter on this trip and she picked up some, uh, local skepticism. "He's got that Beverly Hills haircut," said a guy. "Folks here don't pay $200 for a haircut!"

Garcetti also made the rounds at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego this past weekend. Politico's Carla Marinucci detected a subtle shift in the mayor's standard answer about 2020. His usual dodge is to reply to the question he wants to be asked with a quip like “right now, I love being a mayor." Marinucci says in San Diego he added, significantly, “I’ll look at that next year sometime."

All right, so the mayor is clearly visiting a lot of primary states and not discouraging talk about himself as a possible candidate. For president. The hometown paper declaring his city a national disgrace is not a great look for an aspiring national politician. Let's see how he handles this situation.

For now, Garcetti is scheduled to hold yet another homeless media op on Monday morning. He will join Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago to declare support for $1.5 billion more in state funding to address the homeless crisis. Los Angeles would get about 25 percent of that based on its homeless population.

Noted: A longtime LA Observed reader reports a Feb. 21 phone call from the Inland Empire area code asking him to support a "draft Eric Garcetti for President" movement. He adds: "I'll spare you my response to the caller, but thought you would be interested to know that at least one person was undertaking this effort."

Further noted: Rep. Adam Schiff, the force behind the Democrats' memo responding to the Devin Nunes memo on Trump and Russia, has a growing fan base that hopes his next act is taking on Trump in 2020, says the latest George Skelton column in the LAT.

LA Times update

I'm told there's some nervousness around the Times about Patrick Soon-Shiong that goes beyond the uncertainty about his intentions. Some wonder if he will actually close the deal to buy the Times and San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc, given that $500 million-plus seems like an overpay. There's also trepidation in some parts of the newsroom about Soon-Shiong's relationship with Davan Maharaj, the longtime editor and novice publisher who was fired last year. Maharaj had become somewhat close to Soon-Shiong over the years that the biotech billionaire has shown an interest in the Times. Remember, also, that Soon-Shiong's daughter showed up in the newsroom as an intern during Maharaj's tenure.

My sense is that Maharaj was not a popular leader before he was ousted — he has his supporters, but the newsroom union discussions actually began in part in response to his leadership. Maharaj is believed to be advising Soon-Shiong, and reportedly reached out on his behalf to masthead editor Kim Murphy after she announced that she was leaving for the New York Times national desk. If the point was to dissuade Murphy from leaving, it didn't work. There was a going-away party for Murphy this weekend at the home of former Times editor and reporter Stephanie Chavez. In New York, Murphy will be reunited with former LAT editor Dean Baquet (now executive editor of the NYT) and Marc Lacey, a former LAT staff writer who is national editor of the NYT.

Another Soon-Shiong adviser appears to be Harry Chandler, a former Times executive who was one of the last Chandler family members to work at the paper. He has assured some Times insiders that Soon-Shiong wants to strengthen the Times as a community voice. He apparently used phrases that cheered the hearts of fretting Times staffers and ex-pats: "not in this for the money" and "what the Times used to be."

Bill Boyarsky, writing as a former Times city editor and columnist at Truthdig, expressed hope that Soon-Shiong's community-minded side will win out. Even if he has much to learn. "He’ll find out that running a newspaper is not science. Nor is it showmanship," Bill wrote. "It’s saying no to friends and business associates who want Soon-Shiong to kill unfavorable stories and print puff pieces. And it’s combining business sense with a feel for readers and for a staff whose fierce independence has survived years of dictatorial and incompetent regimes."

Industry analyst Ken Doctor says, meanwhile, that Tronc chief Michael Ferro decided to get out of the California news business as a direct response to the Times staff forming the newsroom union. In other words, the organizing effort may truly have saved the day. The deal with Soon-Shiong came together in only about a week, Doctor writes.

Noted: The nascent LA Times Guild is looking to hire a full-time staffer to help manage the contract campaign and day-to-day administration.

Media notes

Clara Jeffery, the editor in chief of Mother Jones, posted a long Twitter thread with highlights from the magazine's six years of reporting on the NRA — now that people are interested. "First up, their membership numbers are nowhere what they claim." Her thread...

The cost of reporting while female, in CJR, mentions SoCal journalists Annie Gilbertson, Nadra Nittle and Liana Aghajanian. "The first time I was told I should go die a slow and painful death, it was because I had written about Kristen Stewart. I’d posted on a small WordPress blog, and a female fan had disliked the way I’d analyzed her star image," writes Anne Helen Petersen... Last Christmas Eve, Monica Lewinsky was out in New York City and met Ken Starr for the first time. They shook hands and she introduced her family. "Bizarre as it may sound, I felt determined, then and there, to remind him that, 20 years before, he and his team of prosecutors hadn’t hounded and terrorized just me but also my family... And all because the Man in the Hat, standing in front of me, had decided that a frightened young woman could be useful in his larger case against the president of the United States." Her Vanity Fair piece.

Polk Award winners include the New York Times and Washington Post "for uncovering connections between Trump campaign officials and well-connected Russians that gave rise to the Mueller investigation." Also Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the NYT and Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker "for exposing the decades-long sexual predation of the movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the campaign to cover it up." Also noted, Melissa Segura of BuzzFeed won the Local Reporting Award "for drawing attention to innocent men framed for murder by a Chicago police detective." The lead editor was Jessica Garrison in the Los Angeles office. Full list.

The Atlantic is going on a hiring spree... Paul Manafort, American hustler, by Franklin Foer in The Atlantic... Chilling tale in New York Magazine of the worst roommate ever. Also: Inside the Corrosive Workplace Culture of the Dallas Mavericks from Sports Illustrated... The Pitch: How to break into The California Sunday Magazine.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza, who resigned last week after allegations of sexual harassment, went on Airtalk with Larry Mantle to defend himself, say he was pushed out by an unfair process, and point the finger at other senators... Former Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen writes first-person on an Olympian’s Guide to Retiring at 25... Billy Graham, who died last week, made his mark with a big series of tent revivals in Los Angeles starting in 1949... "The Sounds of Cesar Chavez Avenue - A Documentary" on Soundcloud... Cal State LA will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the East LA Walkouts with a symbolic walk-in to campus by hundreds of LAUSD high school students, a historical photo and newspaper exhibit and a two-day conference. March 1-2... COLCOA French Film Festival will honor filmmaker Mélanie Laurent at this year’s festival, which runs April 23-30 at the Directors Guild.

Baseball: The Dodgers said five games this season will be broadcast on over-the-air KTLA: March 30, April 7, April 13, April 21 and April 28. Other games not on national TV will again only be SportsNet LA, which remains hard to find if you don't have Spectrum.

Media people doing stuff

San Gabriel Valley Tribune crime reporter Brian Day tweets on his last day of employment: farewell......Rachel Luna, who put herself up to be one of the more than a dozen photographers laid off from Southern California News Group papers, explains to Luis Gomez...Ryan Fonseca, digital news editor at the Daily News, tweets that he is joining the digital team at KPCC next month... Los Angeles area photographer Andrew Bernstein was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

Daniel Hernandez is heading off to the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire for awhile to focus on writing. In his stead, LA Taco will be headed by associate editor Javier Cabral... Christoper Cadelago has left the Sacramento Bee Capitol beat for Politico, where he will help cover the White House... New York Times columnist Frank Bruni writes about losing a major part of the vision in his right eye one night while he slept, and the massive medical effort he has gone through to save what remains of his eyesight... Joel Bellman's latest for the Bee op-ed page on why we’ll never build our way out of the homeless crisis... David Freed also in the Bee: It’s not just the guns, or even the mental illness. Why aren’t we talking about rage?

American Songwriter interviews Michael Sigman about the loss of his father Carl Sigman's music archives in the recent Ventura wildfires. "Most of what’s gone is irreplaceable. There were hundreds of pieces of original, annotated sheet music — some for songs that eerily conjured the disaster...What I’ll miss most perhaps is a messy drawerful of Carl’s titles for songs that never got written — mad scribblings on whatever he could get his hands on, from matchbooks to napkins to gas receipts."

Journalist and author Scott Timberg will help write "Beeswing: Britain, Folk Rock and the End of the 60s" by guitarist and singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, to be published in autumn 2019 by Faber and Faber... Best-selling author Michael Connelly ("The Late Show") and another former LA Times staffer, Rick Wartzman ("The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America"), are finalists for Los Angeles Times Book Prizes this year. Current Times staffers are eligible... The main narrator of "Tree," last year's novel by Melina Sempill Watts, is a 229-year-old California live oak that germinated in Topanga Canyon. "Watts takes the reader on a journey through more than two centuries of California history with Tree right at the center," writes Kirkus Reviews.

NBC's Jacob Soboroff is the speaker March 1 at the Distinguished Journalists Awards dinner hosted by the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Tix still available.

Media obit: Mary Lou Loper, the retired journalist and society columnist for the Los Angeles Times, died on Feb. 16 at age 85.

This is Oscars week

wes-studi-icn.jpgThe Academy Awards next Sunday will finally wrap the Hollywood awards season. Hollywood Boulevard closed overnight for preparations in front of the Dolby Theatre. Other streets will shut down as the big event gets closer, so it's best to avoid the area around Hollywood and Highland if you can. Hollywood Boulevard won't reopen until March 7. Meanwhile, the academy announced that Wes Studi, the veteran Hollywood actor of Cherokee lineage who has done more Native American roles than you knew existed, at age 70 will be an Oscar presenter for the first time. Studi was included in the group with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Gal Gadot. "I'm so honored! Thank you!," Studi tweeted. He lives in Santa Fe but it was news in his home state of Oklahoma and all over native communities.

Not that is really matters, but here are the final Oscar predictions based on the models at FiveThirtyEight.

Also in Hollywood: Actress Nanette Fabray died on Feb. 22 at age 97. SAG-AFTRA's email said that she joined the union in 1937. She began in vaudeville at age five as "Baby Nan" and in 1986 received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. Her IMDb listing only goes back to 1939.

And: Winners of the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Awards and the Costume Designers Guild Awards.

And this:

Where are they now

bobby-kaple-rebecca-hall.jpgYou might remember Bobby Kaple from his three years reporting for the KCAL and KCBS duopoly in Los Angeles. Kaple left town in 2015 for an anchor job at CBS affiliate WGCL Atlanta. Now he is running for Congress as a Democrat in Georgia's 6th district.

You may never have known this about Kaple — I don't think that I did. Kaple is married to the former KTLA sports reporter and anchor Rebecca Hall. She also moved to Georgia in 2015 and covers local sports there for Fox Sports South.

Selected tweets

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Notes stories on LA Observed:
LA Observed Notes: Clippers hire big-time writer, unfunny Emmys, editor memo at the Times and more
LA Observed Notes: Media notes, homeless ruling, scooters and lion cubs
LA Observed Notes: Times hiring binge, LA Weekly investor sues, media tidbits
LA Observed Notes: Editor moves, NYT steps on JGold turf, jobs and more
LA Observed Notes: Long Beach, LAist, Soon-Shiong and much more
LA Observed Notes: Soon-Shiong era at LA Times begins
LA Observed Notes: Bourdain's LA, Villaraigosa fades to black
LA Observed Notes: After the holiday weekend edition